the hand

The Hand
by mary ruefle
The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question.
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers
and spring is in the air.

0 thoughts on “the hand

  1. Sometimes a quiet poem quietly explodes at the end. This is poetry, redolent of the late and magnificent James Wright (but not derivative). Such a wonderful surprise. Now I have to get rid of the goose pimples.

  2. There isn’t anything to be criticized in this poem except for the last two lines. Taken by themselves, they’re something you would find in a hallmark greeting card. And yet here, they give the poem a strong and concise ending, thus contributing nicely to the unity of the poem. It works and it works extremely well. Ruefle — you nailed it perfectly.
    As to WB’s comment: I don’t understand the mention of James Wright. There isn’t anything here that evokes the poetry of Wright. Wright never wrote anything with such a strong and natural flow.

  3. THis piece didn’t do much for me at all. Except I really liked,
    “there is
    some essential beauty in your fingers,
    which aren’t even drumming, but lie
    flat and peaceful.”
    I found the opposite of what Wally found…the end, to me, is soft and boring.
    That’s my emotional response.
    Technically, this piece has it.

  4. I kind of agree with savagewave–the language is beautiful, no question. But the poem itself seems like a cliche.
    As for the ending, I’d love it if you cut the last line (ending the poem with a cliche statement gives the whole piece that feel). I’d end with a robin is ruffling its feathers.

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